Monday, May 26, 2014

{Marriage Monday} Marriage's Top Secret

This is my second {Marriage Monday} post. To know more about this series, please read my first post here.

One of our pre-nup photos, taken by the amazing talents of Super Seven Studio. 

Today, I am quite excited to share the top secret for fulfilling and thriving marriages! :)

But let me digress for a while and tell you about myself and my awesome hubby. We have been married for, hold your, that is. And  I am telling this fact to make a point here. Since, I published my first post  a week ago, I felt inadequate for doing so. Why, everybody would probably question my credibility on writing a marriage series when I have been married for only seven months!

But that is just basically what I wanted to do here. Marriage is crazy-beautiful but it takes a lot of hard work for it to become well, crazy-beautiful. For the seven months that I have been married to the love of my life, I can say that the quality of our marriage totally depends on our attitude and hard work. If we want a thriving and loving relationship, then, we have to work at it. It is the same as our desire to have healthy bodies--we have to work for it, make sacrifices, eat healthy choices, and say no to a lot of junk food that has, unfortunately, become mainstream staples in our tables today. 

So, this series every Monday is part of my "working hard" efforts for a thriving and loving marriage. I am not saying that I have perfectly applied everything I have written here nor have my husband and I attained the perfect state for our relationship. No, we're quite far from that! 

These posts are here to remind me what I am working hard for and why I am doing it. I will not only post tips and lessons that I learned but my struggles and failures as well, with the permission of my beloved husband, of course! ;)

I also hope that the Lord will use this {Marriage Monday} series to encourage and minister to other women, whether they be single, recently married, enjoying marriage or struggling with marriage. This is the place where we can encourage each other, laugh at each other's mistakes, cry with our struggles, and pray with and for each other. :) 

Basically, this {Marriage Monday} series has a two-pronged purpose: one for myself and my hubby, and two, for everybody! 

Last week, I wrote about the real and ultimate purpose of getting married and that is, to reflect Christ. I honestly believe that it is only when we know our exact purpose that we can actually function well, thrive, and be fulfilled. Knowing our real purpose is the basic foundation. If we know our correct purpose, then, we know our right destination and the proper way of getting there. 

Today, let me share to you the TOP SECRET of a loving and thriving marriage, which is also very much related to the real purpose of matrimony. I am no marriage expert but by the way I see it, this is the most important secret and the good thing is, it is not actually a secret. Everybody knows about it; it is very basic. Yet, it is too basic for us to neglect it at times. 

So, the top secret for marriage to be successful is actually one word: FORGIVENESS. 

Yes, that is right. CAPSLOCK that, highlight, and underline because it needs all the emphasis to make a mark in our minds and hearts. 

You see, if our real purpose in marriage (and in life, actually) is to reflect Christ, then we must know and live forgiveness. 

For Christ came to this world while we're still sinners and demonstrated His great love for us by dying a shameful and painful death on the Cross so that our sins will be forgiven. God initiated forgiveness. And He keeps on forgiving us every time our heart truly repents.

Since the purpose of every marriage is to mirror Christ in this dark and horrible world, then our marriages should show His forgiveness--unconditional, faithful, true, complete, abounding, inexhaustible. 

And I don't want to be a hypocrite in writing this. Before I had a personal relationship with Christ, I used to claim that forgiveness is not in my vocabulary. Once one of my friends or acquaintances offend me, then, that person is automatically flushed out of my heart and mind. That's how callous I was, dear friends, and I do hope that you will not judge me by my past. ;)

So, just imagine how hard it is for me to transition as I live and build relationships with Christ as the basis! And how harder it is now for me to live under one roof, one room, and share one bed with my husband who has quite a different background/stand/opinion/habit from me? 

Too many times I have fallen for the trap of conditional forgiveness. "I will forgive you if...." "I will forgive you but..." "I will forgive you when..." The list can go on and on. 

But I always remember how the Father has forgiven me. He never negotiated with me like this. He never said "I will send Jesus Christ to die for you if you change your ways" or "I will forgive you if you promise never to sin again." No, He sent His only begotten Son to die for me even though He knows that I will offend him countless of times. He sent Jesus anyway. 

Too many times too I have fallen for the trap of pride. More often than not, I know I have offended my hubby dear but I was too arrogant to ask for forgiveness. "I'm his wife so I am entitled to royal treatment"--this is what would often cross my mind. 

There are also times that it would be my hubby's fault so I'd tell myself that he should say sorry first. 

But by the Spirit's nudging, I'd realize that humility is essential. If Christ, Himself God in His own right, was humble enough to leave his Heavenly Throne to be among us so that He could die for us, then, what right/entitlement do I have not to ask for forgiveness? 

Often, I would be too hard-headed to feel or obey the Holy Spirit's nudging. And often, I would usually realize late and feel so embarrassed of myself before I can actually confess my sins and ask for forgiveness. 

Next week, I am going to share to you several lessons/advice I got when it comes to forgiveness. 

For now, I am going to end this post with two practical steps in forgiving and asking for forgiveness:

1) Think of JESUS on the Cross; and
2) Swallow your pride. 

Happy Monday! I pray that we will continue to show forgiveness to everybody and be quick to ask for forgiveness should we offend someone... Enjoy the rest of the week!

*All photos are from our pre-nup session with Super Seven Studios

Monday, May 19, 2014

{Marriage Monday} Reflecting Christ

This is one of my favorite shots of my made-to-order gown. Before getting married, I wanted to have those expensive designer gowns but by God's grace and the few women whom He used to speak to me, I realized that my wedding need not be grand and expensive. The most important thing, I realized, is our MARRIAGE. And my prayer since then is that God's glory and story will be the canopy of our life together as husband and wife.
Seven months ago, I took the plunge to give up my self to be united with the man I love--the man I have always considered as God's sweet surprise and wonderful blessing, the man the Lord has lovingly chosen for me, the man who has continuously shown me short glimpses of His glory. 

A year ago, I released all fears and placed them at the feet of the Lord as my sweet surprise and wonderful blessing formally asked my hand in marriage from my parents {and a fleet of my relatives! :)}, fulfilling all customs and traditions, which event ultimately showed God's glory and favor. 

And so, today, as we celebrate these beautiful manifestations of God's love and favor, I am taking the plunge, saying goodbye to my comfort zone, and reluctantly but excitedly obeying God's nudge--I am starting this {Marriage Monday} series to show my thoughts on this crazy-beautiful thing we call marriage and to share lessons I learned from the Bible and from the Godly women I look up to. 

One of the things I loved about our wedding is that we got to incorporate a lot of handmade elements! ;) Shown here is our handmade ring and arrhae pillow-nests. We decided to veer away with the traditional ring and arrhae pillows and instead, chose a nest to go with our theme. Because we are a bit needy when it comes to arts and crafts, the Lord blessed us with the awesome Veronica Vallente-Vicuna of The Purple Parasol to create these lovely nests!
To start this {Marriage Monday} series, let me share to you what I have learned about the ultimate purpose of matrimony. 

When I was younger, I have always thought that you get married to start a family and by starting a family, I can somehow contribute something to the world and perhaps make the future brighter by raising smart, good, law-abiding kids.

Life happened and I realized that I only love kids when they are not mine and so my mind trail took a different turn and my naivety dictated that I should get married for companionship. 

As I grew older, I became more selfish and I concluded that marriage was invented to satisfy the different physical, emotional, and financial needs of the husband and the wife. 

Somewhere along this journey, I bumped into the beautiful and awesome Lord and Savior who loved me first, gave His life to purchase me from the bondage of sins, and gave me a new life through His resurrection. I read and learned and experienced first hand how important it is to be satisfied in Him first and foremost before ever longing to have a husband and a lifetime partner. I learned more things about love and relationships in His way, which were usually way too different from the ways of the world. 

Our wedding was held four days after a 7.2 magnitured earthquake hit our province. Bridges were cut in half, buildings were destroyed, even old churches collapsed in rubbles. But the Lord is still so faithful in His promise, He even made a way that we can still have beautiful flowers on our special day :)

And then He gave these beautiful verses in Ephesians and through a Saturday Bible class and a Friday Homebuilders Fellowship, He made it clear: He created marriage to mirror Jesus Christ. 

Marriage is not about satisfying each other (although that is an integral part of the husband-wife relationship) nor is it about having beautiful children (though it will make it more fun but we should always remember that it is God who gives and takes away). 

Marriage is reflecting Christ in ourselves and seeing glimpses of Him from our spouses.  

As a couple united in the Lord, it is our duty to safeguard this high purpose. It is our duty to actively pursue this purpose so that we may show to the whole world Christ and His love, faithfulness, goodness, kindness, mercy, forgiveness. 

While preparing for our wedding, there were things that I really wanted which would not fit into our budget. While I could have used my debating skills or dramatic prowess to convince my then hubby-to-be to increase the budget, God used several persons to tell me and constantly remind me that the ultimate goal of getting married is not to have a grand wedding ceremony and reception but to reflect Christ in ourselves and to the world. 

This gave me so much peace in the preparation and anticipation that I freely threw away my dream of preparing for a grand wedding. This allowed me to focus on the essentials--instead of being busy of preparing for a wedding, God gave us so much time to prepare our hearts and lives for our marriage.

How do we live out God's purpose for marriage? The best answer that I learned is to simply live by His Word, the Bible. 

Now that we are seven months into our marriage, I can honestly tell you in the eye that it is really hard to reflect Christ all the time. 

As the verses proclaim, my role as a wife is to joyfully submit to my husband just as the church submits to Christ. And I tell you this, for a strong-willed woman like me who basically lives my growing up years in the women power era, it is really HARD to submit. There are times that my selfishness creeps in and all I wanted to do is to allow my sinful self to reign.  

But as I ponder on God's word more and more, the more I realized that it is the only way to have a satisfying and lasting marriage. God created marriage to mirror Christ and it is through reflecting Christ-likeness to our spouse and the people around us that we can find true joy and fulfillment in our marriages. 

It may be hard but the One who called us to do this will enable us. From our text in Ephesians 5, God's words tell us that we should follow Christ in living out our lives. And if we go backwards to Ephesians 4, we have the assurance that God is for all, over all, through all and in all. If He is for us, over us and works through us and in us, there is no reason that we cannot reflect His glory in our marriages. 

My prayer today is that all of us who are married and all those who are planning to get married will discover God's ultimate purpose for this beautiful thing we call "marriage" and may we call on the one true God to equip us and enable us to fulfill this purpose that more and more people will see Christ in ourselves, in our marriages, and in our families.